Some deaths are sudden, like jumping off of a boat only to get mowed down by Nazi machine gunners or getting stabbed in the face by some freak jumping out of the bushes in a Halloween mask all tweaked out on what they got for Trick or Treating at Walter White’s house. These deaths are horrible and ugly and make everyone throw up who has to witness them, but at least you die quickly and you get to float off to the Great Beyond to ride your Spirit Horse on the Great Plains of Eternity. Other deaths are slow, they take forever, there are no real outward signs of torment or decay and everyone just sort of shrugs their shoulders when they see you and then walks on by to get on with their own slow deaths. This Chinese Water Torture sort of death/death by a Thousand Papercuts/whatever the fuck you want to call it, is agonizing because it never ends and soon your Spirit Horse gets impatient, stamps its hooves and then leaves you sitting in the dust all along while it goes to play with the other horses. This is what the game against the Packers felt like.
If you want to tailor a metaphor to the Green Bay experience in all its loathsomely familiar ways, let’s compare it instead to dying of heart disease because you spent your whole life shoving cheese in your gluttonous feedhole. The doctor keeps telling you that one day this shit is going to kill you, but you shrug it off, and you shrug it off, you’re still in the game, you’ll take care of it eventually, and then oh shit, you just had a heart attack while playing tennis or having rote sex with your bored wife, whatever. So you say okay, now I’ve really got to get this under control, but it’s too late, you are too set in your ways and your doctor just sort of shakes his head at you every time you see him, until finally, there you are, lying ravaged in a hospital bed, stroking out, vomiting all over the place while your loved ones just wait for you die and Aaron Rodgers hangs out just out in the hall, where you can still see him, seducing your loved ones and getting them hooked on meth. You try to do something about it but then your heart explodes and you shit your pants. That’s what this game felt like.
Look, this one felt doomed from the start. It was just too much to overcome – St. Calvin being martyred, the weight of history collapsing on us like the rolls of fat pressing on a fat man’s lungs (sorry, it might take me a minute to get off of this theme), Nate Burleson getting shamefully whipped up on by the Noid – it was all just too much. Still, it’s hard to really quantify just what St. Calvin being out really meant for the offense. Did they play poorly just because he was out? Or did they play poorly in general while he coincidentally happened to be out? I think it’s probably a mixture of the two – the offensive line getting its ass beat for most of the game probably was going to happen either way – but we’ll never really know, especially because we can’t really see just how much his absence fucked with the Lions no-doubt fragile confidence, and when I say confidence I mean true confidence, not the showy kind of asshole swagger that is too often a mask for doubt and fear. The Lions have a shitload of that. But anyway, we just don’t know.
Because of that, it’s hard to say that this game felt that meaningful. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was meaningful, but it was meaningful in that way that every game – especially a game against a divisional rival – is meaningful, and it was meaningful because it was yet another lost chance to erase some of that inglorious history that has kept us tethered to cackling Failure Demons all these years. I don’t know how much it really tells us about where this team is, or what’s to come, because figuring this St. Calvin thing is just a temporary blip (Oh Lord, it better be…), then this performance is unlikely to repeat itself.
It sucks to have to even say that, though, to have to try to contextualize yet another defeat against this insipid team. And there were moments when it looked like the Lions might have a chance to turn it around, to somehow pull it off despite all the ugly cholesterol clogging their arteries. They were fleeting moments, but they were there, barely. The defense bent but didn’t break for much of the game, and as long as that happened, there still felt like there was a chance, however remote it actually really seemed since the Lions offense looked a lot like one of those Drew Stanton quarterbacked offenses from 2010. You remember those games? Yeah, the ones the Lions hung in and hung in until their hearts burst, you remember. Well, they hung in this one for a while, and then that Lions defense broke and those hearts burst. By the time it was over, the Packers had almost 500 yards of total offense, Matthew Stafford’s knee was reportedly wrapped in ice, and the Lions felt like they were down by roughly 1,000 rather than the 22-9 final score that flashed sadly on the scoreboard and in our hearts.
That’s the most discouraging thing, really. For all those glimmers that represented a technical sort of hope, the Lions never really felt like they were in this game. Like I said, it felt doomed from that start, and it was obvious that they couldn’t really keep up with the Packers. I’m not going to panic because, again, no St. Calvin means that you have to give at least a partial pass to the offense here. But not a complete one, because Stafford was sacked five times and the running game atrophied to those familiarly depressing depths that leave us all shivering and shaking like junkies.
For the most part, the Lions lost this game in the trenches, and as cliché as that phrase is, it was pretty much invented to describe games like this one. The Packers were simply better in this one on both lines – of course, it also helps when the refs decide that holding is even more arbitrary than usual, but when you’re reduced to bitching about the refs, and especially about holding not getting called, it usually means you just got plain beat. Last week, the Bears were holding even more egregiously, but the Lions were able to reduce it to a mere trifle because they were the better team. This time they couldn’t because, well, they weren’t.
In the end, I suppose this was sort of a weird game, one that I kind of emotionally divested myself from as soon as I heard that St. Calvin was off healing the sick or whatever the fuck it is that saints of the non-New Orleans type do. I guess they perform magic tricks and get the Pope to call them miracles? I don’t know and I was raised Catholic. Who gives a fuck? What am I talking about? Where am I?
Right, so this was a weird game because on the one hand, I am totally willing to give them a pass for this because of horrible circumstances – when you’re riding with Kris Dunham as your primary playmaker at receiver you’re gonna lose – but on the other hand, I hate that I have to sit here and give this team a pass for the billionth time in the life of my fandom. Excuses in sports are the weakest of weak shit and often reveal a mind softened by failure and defeat. And yet, sometimes excuses are simply what they are – cold, hard truth that you simply have to accept. I don’t know. I also have a hard time excusing this, though, because a lot of the ways the Lions got beat in this game were simply because, well, because they got beat in all the ways that I’ve already talked about. Really, I’m having a hard time not just talking in circles here, which feels oddly appropriate because that’s sort of the Ouroboros nature of this game with the Calvin Johnson situation that I mentioned earlier. In the end, any attempt to analyze this game will just end with us eating our own tails.
I wish I had more for you than that, something interesting or at least passionate to say here, but I’m just sort of bummed out. I’m not even mad, just disappointed that the Lions couldn’t somehow overcome all of that bullshit. It’s understandable, but still, you know? I guess this is the slow decay of a mortal life. It’s sad and tragic in its own understated way, but ultimately inevitable, and against inevitability all you can do is pat grandpa on the head while he’s lying in that hospital bed, wheezing and twitching from all the mini-strokes, thank the doctor for trying and then make the funeral arrangements. This was a slow death, inevitable and unremarkable, and one day we’ll figure out how to overcome our own inherent weaknesses and beat this fuckin’ team, but for now, Aaron Rodgers is alive and well, and we’re just choking on a cheeseburger. Again.